Circles connects people with similar life challenges to each other. Today we feature Meredith Costa, a Circles guide for narcissistic relationship survivors. She teaches others what she has learned in her own abusive relationship, and hopes to renew confidence and self-awareness to all survivors. Join her group here.
Hi Meredith, tell us a bit about yourself:
I am a native New Yorker, a cat lover, a writer and singer at heart. I was in an abusive alcoholic relationship for four years, and have been out of it for three years now.
I’ve been studying personality disorders for about ten years, and have worked with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m a certified volunteer rape crisis counselor trained in substance abuse and suicide prevention, with a life coaching business for survivors of narcissistic abuse and those who struggle with codependency.
I am now happily, joyously single. Leaving this relationship enabled me to finally be an author, which I’ve always wanted to be — I wrote a book about my experience.
What is your story with narcissistic relationships?
Narcissistic abuse was something I knew nothing about, at all, until about six months after I left my ex. I was doing research and came across Dr. Ramani, who became a guru to me. Her videos pulled me through the first 3-4 months where I went no-contact with my ex.
My ex was a raging alcoholic who fractured my wrist and utterly destroyed my self-esteem. I didn’t know terms like “gaslighting” before, and didn’t realize what was going on until I started studying after the breakup. As soon as I learned about gaslighting and what it looked like, I went “Oh My God!” – I saw my exact experience validated.
It breaks my heart to see people hurting in their relationships, blaming themselves. It fuels my passion for this work.
Tell us about your group at Circles.
I found Circles while searching the internet for a way to volunteer and give back to people who went through what I went through. I have three groups. One is for codependency, which has become quite popular; another is for toxic family members.
Who is your narcissistic relationship group for?
A lot of the people in my group are often experiencing the really strong emotions common with narcissistic relationships.
My Circles group is for people who are in relationships where they know or sense that something isn’t right, but can’t quite pinpoint what it is. That’s really common, too – gaslighting is meant to be covert. People don’t realize that’s what’s happening until they learn what it is.
It’s very destabilizing to have someone come into your life, convince you to let your guard down, and suddenly you’re at the lowest of the low and you can’t figure out how you got there. In the process of all the manipulation and triangulation, they’re being broken down further and further because the abuser is convincing them that everything happening is their fault. All of this fuels my passion for helping others.
What impact do you hope your narcissistic relationship group will have in their lives?
- I want to give them a renewed sense of confidence to understand that it’s not their fault.
- Remember: “this is happening to you, not because of you.”
- I want to give my group a thorough and clear understanding of exactly what to look for and what signs of narcissism looks like.
- I want to help them set boundaries comfortably without feeling like they’re doing something wrong.
- I hope that those in my groups will extend themselves outward, and use what they have learned to help others who are struggling, too.
How important is community support for this (and your) healing journey?
I always say that I wish I had a group like this when I went through my relationship and healing, because I didn’t. I had a wonderful therapist, and she saved my life. But community is such a big thing, especially when it comes to narcissistic relationships, because if you don’t know what it is, you don’t get it.
When we go to a family member or friend for support, if they’ve never been through a narcissistic relationship, they won’t understand. Even if they may be well-intended, their advice may often sound devaluing. The last thing someone in this community needs is to be further devalued.
The sense of community in groups like Circles is this tightly-knit tribe of people who really truly get it, and want to be there not only for their own healing, but for the healing of others.
I have also found my own unexpected healing by listening to others in these groups, which is a very powerful experience no matter how far along I am in my own process.
What advice would you have for someone in a narcissistic relationship?
TRUST YOURSELF. YOUR GUT KNOWS.
Trust your reality no matter what they try to tell you.
You are a lot more aware of what’s happening than what you give yourself credit for.